Greetings from Montana,
Things have been surprisingly chill this past week. Well, chill in the sense of nothing too crazy happening like climbing a mountain or encountering grizzly bears. Work wise things have been kind of crazy, and also, it’s not really been “chill” in a temperature sense as it’s been in the mid-to-upper 90s here. That said, I defer in misery to the east coast readers because at least I don’t have humidity to deal with. So I guess things haven’t been as chill as I thought.
In fact, the way Montanans view humidity is pretty funny. There have been a few days where you could tell there was humidity in the air, but it was nowhere near oppressive. Yet if you turned on the news or spoke to anyone you would have thought that the air had metamorphosed into boiling soup. In fairness I guess you kind of get used to it being dry in a dry climate, but heck, Seattle was the same way in regards to humidity, so maybe I’m just more humiture resistant than I give myself credit for after growing up in the humidity-hell-hole that is the central Midwest.
Speaking of dryness, we’ve had a bit of a dry spell out here lately. Off the top of my head I actually can’t remember the last time it rained. [Edit: So in typical fashion it ended up a little bit raining the day I wrote this] Moose II is still dirty from his off-roading adventures and that was a week and a half ago. So at the very least it’s been that long since we’ve had any rain, thought it feels like it’s been longer than that. Still, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the lack of rain. After dealing with way more rain than I had ever expected in Denver I have no problem with a lack of the wet stuff. Of course there are all sorts of problems when you don’t have rain, but in my self-centered world I am good with it. Also, SB is coming to visit me this week (woo!) and I’d prefer it not rain constantly while she is out here.
Another plus of clear skies is getting to see the moon over the mountains each night.
So, you know how something always looks better in person than it does when you take a photo of it – especially a crappy phone photo? Yeah, I’ve never been able to capture night shots well, but the fact that my phone camera essentially dies after 4pm doesn’t help matters. Just believe me that it was a way cool moon photo.
On the work side of things I’ve been a bit stressed out. This summer has been kind of an inverted bell curve in that work started out (from Day 1) really stressful and then calmed down, and now it’s picking back up into crazy-land again. I’m currently fighting: The Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, a coal company, another coal company, a silver mining company, some ranchers, the Department of Agriculture, a conservation group (to say that all “Tree Huggers” don’t see eye to eye is an understatement), an oil company, the state of Montana, the state of Wyoming, some random rich people in Seattle, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, oh and last but not least the Department of Justice.
Of course I feel good about my position on all of those respective battles, so there’s no moral qualms, it’s mainly just one of those “Heeee just let me be an underpaid intern” moments. But not really, I don’t want to fetch coffee. Still, there have been a few days where I was thinking to myself “Yeeeeeeah that fellowship doesn’t seem quite as large as it once did.” On the whole though I wouldn’t trade this work for anything else right now, so that’s a good sign. I just like complaining about things, which is the first tenant of having a blog. In fact back in the “before times” of the 1990s – an epoch scarcely remembered and largely lost to time – Raptor Jesus did command “And so when thou blogeth, thou must blogeth of misery and woe and despair. So sayeth Raptor Jesus, your LORD.”
So I titled this post “Work, work, work” as the scripture commands. Actually the title of the post has nothing to do with me being stressed at work and is instead from some stupid hardware store commercial where they play a song that just seems to have the lyrics of “Work, work, work” over and over in the background – a song which has been relentlessly stuck in my head. As a testament of how bad of a commercial it was, I don’t even remember what company it was for (the same can’t be said for the Jeep commercial with the “4x4Ever” song – also stuck in my head and equally despised).
The plus side to all of this is that just like last summer, I got to go on a work hike. The downside was that unlike last summer this hike took place on a weekend and so I didn’t get paid to do it. However, despite the lack of payment this was definitely a better hike from a weather perspective, though we didn’t get to see any moose this time around.
The destination was the “Emerald and Heather Lakes” trail, which is located in Hyalite Canyon and if you’ve read my last post you’ll know that I am quite familiar with that area now – though I had not done this hike yet. A few of us gathered at 9am at the office – we were going to pick up the boss-boss at his house and then the other clerk was already up in the area scoping out a campsite (I wasn’t camping, the other clerk was). Upon arrival at the office I noticed that dogs would be accompanying us. There were 2 in the car and 1 was with the other clerk. One of these dogs proceeded to bark for the entire freaking drive and since I was right in the backseat that meant it was barking in my ear for an hour straight. It was excruciatingly annoying and by the time we finally arrived at the trailhead I had developed quite a nice headache. Thankfully, once out of the car the dogs stopped being as annoying, at least for the time being. It was my first time hiking with dogs, and since there were three of them in total they had a tendency to get in the way a lot.
In fairness one of the dogs, the oldest and only female, wasn’t really that bad – other than flinging water all over me, but more on that in a bit.
This trail wasn’t nearly as long or arduous as the Hyalite Summit trail, but it still had lots of pretty scenery (and certainly wasn’t “short” either).
Most of the lower portion of the trail involved moving out of the forest and then crossing through wide and sunny mountain meadows. Fortunately Saturday was the “low point” of the heat wave we’ve been in, so, when coupled with the elevation we were at I think it only hit the upper 70s (whereas Bozeman itself was probably over 90).
There were a few stream crossings, but they all had bridges on them (and thus I avoided situations such as my nemesis crossing from the previous weekend).
I love when the streams cross into the meadows.
Emerald Lake is the first of the two lakes that you come across. This photo didn’t capture it too well but it’s a deep blue-green, thus the name.
Once at Emerald Lake you can either veer left onto a smaller spur trail, or veer right to the still small but main trail to Heather Lake.
Surprisingly no one in the office that was with us had done this trail (the one attorney who had had been injured while playing soccer), so people weren’t entirely sure which way to go. Thankfully, over-planning-Taco had already mapped the route out and had a guide book in his pack. So I had a very brief moment of leadership and we continued on the right path, literally and figuratively.
Heather Lake is, according to the guide book, ½ a mile beyond Emerald Lake, however everyone in the group felt like it was more than ½ a mile. Still, the route wasn’t too rough other than a few spots and it primarily just meandered away from Emerald Lake via a rocky meadow and then up a wooded hill from there.
Here is 3/5 of our group, plus 2/3 of the dogs (temporarily leashed due to campers, except for the not-pictured one, who was never leashed) making our way towards the final stretch.
Before too long – but further than what felt like ½ a mile – we made it to Heather Lake:
Heather Lake is the “terminus” of this particular trail as the trail just loops around the lake and then heads back. Unlike Emerald Lake, I saw no obvious reason for the name “Heather Lake” as I didn’t meet anyone named Heather.
We decided to eat lunch at Heather Lake, which was nice because I was extremely hungry for some reason. I think hiking with people threw off my food and water schedule on the trail. Since it’s not like distant areas like this have picnic tables you just make do with what you can find. In our case it was a rocky area.
Sadly we didn’t see any marmots (marmots love rocky areas) but we did hear their trademark little “whistle” noises somewhere off in the distance. It was kind of interesting because just up out of this cirque and over that ridge is another cirque and more rocky areas and ridges and slopes and beyond all of that is Hyalite Peak. So yeah, not really “just up out of” but when you are up on the summit of Hyalite Peak you can see the top of this cirque, so it was kind of cool from my perspective to have been both “up high” and “down low” (insofar as thousands and thousands of feet above sea level can be considered low) in this area.
Here is a nice panoramic shot of the view I had during lunch:
And here is the view skewed to the left (that’s the trail we came in on):
And finally here is the view skewed to the right (Hyalite Peak is a ways beyond the right-most ridge in this photo):
The scenery for lunch was enjoyable, the dogs not so much. I actually had a “realization” moment about dogs, or, more specifically dog owners. I’ve come to understand that 1) I am not really that big of a fan of dogs anymore and 2) Most of this stems from the fact that a lot of dog owners are extremely jaded and arrogant towards the actions of their dogs (kind of like parents to human children, and if you’ve read even a small portion of this blog then you’ll know how I feel about children).
For instance, while walking with Meem some dog stopped right next to us and splashed water all over us. The owner didn’t even apologize, he just did that “Awww, come on now” and then laughed. As if we enjoyed his dog flinging muddy and sweaty water on us. Later that same walk, a dog jumped up on us and the owner just smiled and kept walking with no comment. Then there was that god-awful banshee dog from the Hyalite Summit hike, and then most recently my co-workers dogs proceeded to slobber all over my stuff – and, after playing in the lake – fling water all over me (and everyone else to be fair). Now, dogs are dogs. They have been bread for countless generations to serve specific functions, all of which serve humans in one way or another. I don’t really blame a dog for splashing water on me. It’s the owners who piss me off. You’d think there would be some iota of guilt or even a meager apology, but no. In my experience dog owners seem to assume that you enjoy a dog wallowing all over you just as much as they do. To them it’s a funny affair, and often times they “voice” what they deem the dog to be thinking, kind of like people do with infants. I find the whole affair obnoxious as shit.
But, I can’t really blame the dogs any more than I can blame the infants. So the easiest thing to do is just to avoid people with such things in the first place. Sadly that isn’t so easy.
Anyways, this is all to say that some dog owners and some children owners have a lot more in common than the probably think they do, which is further to say, I prefer neither. 🙂
Dog (owner) annoyances aside, lunch was quite enjoyable and once the dogs were off doing their own things and not getting me muddy it was actually really peaceful. I think there were maybe only 2 or 3 other people up at Heather Lake when we were there. Emerald Lake was a bit busier, but that’s probably because it’s the closer of the two.
The hike back actually went really fast because I got into an in-depth conversation with the boss-boss (who doesn’t have a dog) about all sorts of stuff and ended up feeling much better about work in general. Plus, backdrops like this seem to encourage good conservation anyways.
After completing the trail – ~11 miles out and back – I did pretty much nothing for the rest of the evening once I made it back home. My toe, which was injured in the great Hyalite summit, was hurting pretty bad, but the good news is that I don’t think my toenail is going to fall off after all. In fact it’s not looking too bad as of Tuesday.
So that’s a plus, I was really hoping it wouldn’t end up falling off. It still hurts, but I think it’s slowly getting better each day, though some days it doesn’t feel like it, and I don’t think the bone tip was broken or anything. In fact other than my toe on the right foot, a lingering blister on the left foot, and a mostly-healed but still sensitive cut on my left knee I’ve pretty much recovered from my 63.69 mile weekend – though I did end up walking 23.01 miles on our work hike day, so it wasn’t like I immediately entered couch-potato mode or anything.
Another thing that hasn’t been resting is my lovely train friend. Train Bro has taken it upon itself to increase its workload in tandem with my own workload.
It’s even catching me on weekends now. The good news is that the weekend version seems to be a coal – rather than oil – train, so at least it goes by a lot quicker. This past weekend I had a front-row seat to Train Bro since it denied me passage at the last moment.
This particular train was part of BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe), one of the largest freight carriers in the country, and a company which traces its origins all through a maze of companies and mergers all the way back to 1849 (woo I still remember some stuff from my single-student graduate course on railroads).
But other than that hike and run-ins with Train Bro things have mostly centered around work lately (that and finishing up Game of Thrones – or at least finishing so I can wait a year for more episodes). One cool thing was that on Monday three board members came to town and so we had a fancy office lunch (after 8 weeks of lunch meat sandwiches it was fancy to me) and since there were quite a few leftovers I’ve been nomin’ on them for lunch each day since. There are even a few beers in the refrigerator (not from the board meeting, lol) that I could probably have if I wanted them, but I still have a decent beer stock at home.
Speaking of beer, I haven’t really done much in the way of a beer blurb lately as almost all of my beer-related activity has shifted over to Untappd (but have no fear, the beer list lives on!). However, I did want to give a shot out to Sawtooth Ridge Golden Ale, from Bitter Root Brewing in Hamilton, MT.
I mainly mention it because it’s a gluten-free beer (or rather, a “virtually” gluten-free beer if you want to get legal). Gluten-free beers tend to taste weird and really just kind of suck (though not all of them). However, it wasn’t until I was on the fifth can of the six-pack (not in one sitting) that I realized that Sawtooth Ridge was a gluten-free beer. Whatever they’ve done in the brewing process, they’ve done it exceptionally well. So, while this beer isn’t really anything extraordinary in and of itself, I have to say that it is hands down the best gluten-free beer I’ve ever had and I would definitely recommend it!
In other drink news, I finally snagged some nitro-brew coffee from Cafe M (it was sold out the last two times I went)!
It was yummy (and oddly similar to nitro-brewed beer), especially on a hot day such as today. However, it was a bit too expensive for my taste ($4.25 for 12oz) to get very often, but I’m certainly glad I got a chance to try it!
Anyways, that’s about all for now. As I mentioned, SB is coming out to visit this week [in fact she’ll be arriving tomorrow!], so that’s pretty exciting! I’m sure a future check-in will chronicle those adventures. Plus, I only have – as of this posting – 14 days left in Montana, which is kind of crazy to think about!
Until next time,